Lopers suffer second loss of year to Washburn

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Bailee Sterling serves the ball in UNK’s win against Northwest Missouri State – Photo by Nate Lilla

The No. 5 UNK volleyball team aimed to defend their undefeated home record this year against No. 12 Washburn. The Lopers lost the first matchup to the Ichabods in an epic five-set finish on Sept. 10.

This match proved to be no different, as the Lopers came up just short again, losing 15-11 in the final set.

“They defend the things we like to do pretty well,” said UNK coach Rick Squiers. “They did that enough tonight that we couldn’t get over the hump. The two sets we won, we hit over .200. The three sets we lost we didn’t.”

With the Lopers up 7-6 in the final set, outside hitter CeCe Beahm hit a kill to put the Lopers up by two. After a video challenge by Washburn, the call was overturned due to Bailee Sterling being in the net earlier in the rally.

“It’s almost more of a psychological blow than had they just gotten the point outright,” Squiers said. “You think you’re up two, then it’s tied and then they got the next point. It’s a part of the game now. Sometimes it helps you and sometimes it hurts you.”

After Washburn had the lead 8-7 at the mid-set turn, the Lopers were able to regain the lead at 11-10. The Ichabods scored four straight points off of three kills to lead 14-10. Washburn’s Halle Meister got the final kill to seal the deal for the Ichabods.

The Lopers won the first set 25-22. Washburn responded winning the second set 25-19 and the third 25-21. UNK used some momentum it gained at the end of the third set to win the fourth 25-19.

UNK’s offensive struggles were evident as they had an attack percentage of .160 which was much lower than their season average of .288 coming into the match. Washburn was much more efficient offensively with a .233 attack percentage.

“If they got the ball up it seemed like we couldn’t stop them,” Squiers said. “It was the same way down there (earlier in the season). They run the middle and they run the right side a lot. We don’t see that a lot and we don’t match up extremely well with it.”

The Lopers tried some different players to get production, subbing in freshman Emilee Lane at outside hitter and Michaela Bartels made an appearance at middle blocker in the fourth set. 

“We were trying to find a little bit of blocking and Bartels is one of our better blockers,” Squiers said. “We really were not doing much of anything slowing their attack down in the middle and on the right side of the net. One thing Michaela does pretty well is she reads that stuff.”

UNK was able to get 11 aces in the match which kept them in some sets, despite losing in other statistical areas. Emersen Cyza led the team with 20 kills. Sterling followed that up with 16 and Beahm had 10. 

Jensen Rowse led the team in digs with 21 and Lauren Taubenheim had 15. Setter Peyton Neff totaled 50 assists. 

With the loss, the Lopers lose sole possession of first place in the MIAA. They are now tied with Central Oklahoma, Northwest Missouri State and Central Missouri. 

UNK will travel to Pittsburg State on Friday and Missouri Southern on Saturday. The team will return home to take on Emporia State on Tuesday.